Settlers’ murder investigation turns into collective punishment

Posted: April 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments »

The army has taken control over the village of Awarta, which lies near the settlement of Itamar, where 5 members of the Fogel family were murdered. According to reports, hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested, some beaten; all young men were forced to give DNA samples; settlers have built an outpost on the village’s land, which is now guarded by the Israeli army

Army roadblock inside Awarta

Army roadblock inside Awarta

Ever since the terrible murder of five members of the Fogel family in the settlement of Itamar, the nearby village of Awarta is going through what is officially a murder investigation, but looks more like a form of collective punishment—some would say organized revenge — led by the IDF and Israel’s Internal Security Service (Shin Beit).

The events have been going on since March 12, when thousands of soldiers entered the village and began house-to-house searches, accompanied by dogs and Shin Bet interrogators.

Hundreds of Awarta’s 6,000 residents were arrested and questioned. According to locals, the soldiers have taken over four houses in the village and turned them into an improvised interrogation facility. Several of the Palestinians said they were beaten by the soldiers and by their interrogators.

According to reports, all the village’s men between the ages of 15 and 40 were forced to give fingerprints and DNA samples.

A door which was forced by soldiers, in Awarta

A door which was forced by soldiers, in Awarta

15 families have reported of damage to their homes. In several cases, Palestinians claimed that large sums of money – between 500 and 5,000 shekels – disappeared from their houses after the soldiers left. In other cases, doors were broken and furniture damaged during the searches.

Settlers have passed through the village, thrown stones on homes and broken car windows and mirrors. Settlers from nearby Itamar have also taken over private agricultural land owned by the village’s farmers and established on it a new outpost, consisting of four mobile homes and guarded by the army.

A view from Awarta. to the right: the hill now occupied by settlers

A view from Awarta. to the right: the hill now occupied by settlers

On Thursday, Palestinian news agency Maan reported that another 100 of the village’s women had been arrested and interrogated.

Awarta has been under curfew from the previous Saturday until Wednesday, and human right activists have not been allowed entrance into the village. Once the curfew was lifted, activists from the Israeli NGO “Checkpoint-Watch” managed to get to Awarta and report some of the events in the village.

The Israeli media hardly reported the events in Awarta, and the only articles that discussed the curfew and the mass arrests were a translated report of a New York Times story by Isabel Kershner, and a few comments by Akiva Eldar, both published by Haaretz a while ago.

At the time of writing, dozens of the village’s people are still under arrest. Their exact number is unknown.

Broken window in a house in Awarta

Broken window in a house in Awarta

I have contacted the IDF spokesperson unit this morning (Sunday) with a series of questions regarding the mass arrests, forced DNA sampling, searches and other activities against the people of Awarta. Late afternoon, I received the following reply:

Since the Itamar murder investigation is still under way, theses issues are still being checked [which "issues"?]. IDF soldiers are present at the outpost due to the high tension in the region.

UPDATE: Maan has reported that the army has raided Awarta again yesterday. Nine Palestinians were detained, including three members of the same family, a father, a mother and their daughter.

UPDATE II: Haaretz is quoting [Hebrew] security officials who claim that a breakthrough with the Itamar murder investigation is expected “soon”, following the Army’s activities in Awarta.


Advocacy groups for Israel and government spokesmen often claim that even under the military occupation, the West Bank is governed by the rule of law. Some people say that Palestinians are not confronted by Israeli soldiers and that they are free to “run their own business” under the governing of the Palestinian Authority.

As events in Awarta prove, this is no more than propaganda. When it matters to Israel, IDF soldiers do whatever they want, wherever they want. Palestinians have no basic legal rights. No Miranda, no Habeas Corpus. When the army decides, it can detain thousands of people and invade hundreds of homes, like it is doing in Awarta right now. No warrant is needed, no specific suspicion against someone is necessary (so far, there hasn’t been one public charge against a resident of Awarta). If Palestinians are beaten, or if their property is destroyed or looted, there is nobody they can turn to.

There have been at least four murder cases of Palestinians from the region by settlers from Itamar in recent years. In the last case, the perpetrator was released on bail and didn’t show up for trial. In the one before, the settler who shot a 24 year-old Palestinian farmer in front of witnesses was never tracked down. Itamar wasn’t placed under curfew, nor were dozen of men rounded up by the police (in criminal cases the settlers are under jurisdiction of civilian authorities, not the army).

This is the occupation’s rule of law. One law for Jews, another for Palestinians.

10 Comments on “Settlers’ murder investigation turns into collective punishment”

  1. 1 maayan said at 10:05 pm on April 10th, 2011:

    Out of curiosity, do you suspect that since 32% of Palestinians support the Itamar attack, that the IDF is actually trying to do the only thing it can do to prevent another such future attack, which is to make life extremely uncomfortable for this community so that the next murderer will think long and hard before doing their disgusting deed?

  2. 2 noam said at 11:12 pm on April 10th, 2011:


    a. that’s a nice name for collective punishment.

    b. would you apply the same tactics to communities who support “price tag” policy?

  3. 3 Gert said at 6:44 am on April 11th, 2011:


    Do you have anything to back up your 32 % figure? And if it’s is true, do the remaining 68 % deserve the same treatment? Would you agree if this was done to Israeli Jews, following the same ‘principle’?

    And what about the round and unequivocal condemnation of the murders by Palestinian authorities?

    Do you believe that forced taking of prints and DNA with the sole probable cause that the perpetrator may be Palestinian should be allowed in a democratic country? Only in Israel, Maayan… oh, and a few African banana republics maybe…

  4. 4 maayan said at 12:46 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    Noam, I don’t know of any settlers that slaughtered a family of 5 Palestinians in their beds , but if they did and I had a sense of the community from which they came, I would lock up that community day and night, make their lives a misery, interrogate everyone I could and punish the remainder of the community for weeks until the message became clear. Collective punishment? Yup, I guess so. The real collective punishment, however, just so we are clear, is that fear which every settler parent and child outside of the big Jerusalem neighborhoods, Ariel and Ma’ale Edumim are going through now. That’s the power of terrorism.

    Gert, the perpetrator is a Palestinians, okay? I mean, there are Palestinians blowing up buses with civilians inside them, and other Palestinians shooting at school-buses with children inside them, and other Palestinians launching rockets at towns with civilians inside them, and other Palestinians who knife Israelis randomly inside Israel, and so on and so on and so on and so on and so on and so on. Why don’t you find a different line of defense than blaming Israel’s police.

    As for the 32% figure, here’s a left wing source for you:

    Regarding the “round and unequivocal condemnation” of the murders by the Palestinian leadership, maybe it would be more believable if around the same time they didn’t name their streets and facilities after suicide bombing murderers:

  5. 5 Atlas said at 3:01 am on April 12th, 2011:

    Comment removed. please refrain from personal attacks.

  6. 6 Tom Mitchell said at 7:11 am on April 12th, 2011:


    And maybe rightist attacks on incitement would be more believable if a Likud-led government didn’t design lessons praising terrorists like Shlomo Ben-Yosef.

  7. 7 maayan said at 1:18 pm on April 12th, 2011:

    Why? I’ve already told you that, unlike the Palestinians who extol the actions of their suicide bombing murderers, the group to which Ben Yosef belongs actually denies that he is culpable of that which he is accused. Big difference.

  8. 8 Tom Mitchell said at 1:43 pm on April 13th, 2011:

    Just to make this clear, I’m refering to the Ben Yosef who was hanged by the British in 1938 for firing on a civilian Arab bus.

  9. 9 maayan said at 11:59 pm on April 13th, 2011:

    So am I. You do realize the version of the story you know and that has been popularized by pro-Palestinian websites is that of Avi Shlaim – a historian who is a relentless critic of Israel and who views the conflict from the angle that it’s mostly Israel’s fault?

    According to Beitar and a couple of other right wing sources, they either deny that he shot at the bus, say he shot at it with one bullet and/or also clarify that it was a response to a recent Arab attack on Jewish civilians.

    Be that as it may, I haven’t a clue which is the truth and neither do you. My point is nobody is glorifying what he did and, in fact, they are attempting to either deny or minimize the crime.

    And again, this is not what is happening on the Palestinian side where the murder itself is glorified.

  10. 10 maayan said at 7:45 am on April 17th, 2011:

    You need to update…